Cannabis, Mental Health

Misleading headlines about cannabis. Due diligence is key.

I think we can all agree that controlled, scientific studies on the (medical) benefits of Cannabis are sorely lacking. With its popularity surging globally and people demanding/clammering for legalization, no doubt these studies will be forthcoming in the very near future.

Having said that, patient-based information, collected through user tracking apps like Strainprint, and websites like Leafly and Lift&Co, paint a very real picture of the myriad health benefits of marijuana. The sheer volume of empirical data stating marijuana’s benefits can no longer be ignored. Controlled study or not, the people have spoken! Whether it be as a treatment to curb symptoms (e.g. pain from inflammation), or a treatment of the condition itself (e.g. reducing the inflammation), cannabis is helping innumerous people.

Yesterday evening I saw an article that both angered and stupified me, entitled: Medicinal cannabis does NOT help treat depression, anxiety or ADHD, reveals review of 83 scientific studies. That’s a pretty bold headline! The first thing I did was check who published the article; it was from a UK tabloid-style newspaper known for its lack of credibility. Still, it quoted a credible source (The Lancet Psychiatry) so I checked that too. They essentially examined studies spanning 30 years, with a ridiculously low combined subject count of between 3K-4K, on depression, anxiety, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, and PTSD. One study had as few as 10 participants! Not only did their report NOT say what the tabloid headline so recklessly stated, but it concluded the following:

There remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework. Further high-quality studies directly examining the effect of cannabinoids on treating mental disorders are needed.

The Lancet psychiatry: Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Regardless of the irresponsible tabloid headline, The Lancet themselves have made some astonishing proclamations stating, “We found little evidence for the effectiveness of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis”. They found little evidence because there is little evidence to be found. There are not enough studies! I find their conclusions astoundingly irresponsible! Controlled studies based on today’s science are in their infancy. They need to seek out real-time patient-based data, then conclude. They need to do better!

Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Mental Health

How to get a medical cannabis prescription in Canada (when your doctor won’t discuss it).

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001 for serious conditions like HIV/AIDS and cancer, with less than 100 clients registered. This number grew to over 37,000 by 2013 and, according to data collected by Health Canada under the Cannabis Tracking System Ministerial Order, there were more than 360,000 client registrations by the end of June 2019.

I am one of those registered clients and, while there is more and more information available, and the process to acquire a medical marijuana prescription is getting easier, it can still be daunting and the process difficult to navigate.

My physician wanted nothing to do with prescribing medical cannabis.

If you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know that I use medical cannabis as a (added) treatment for chronic depression and anxiety. After almost 20 years of relying solely on pharmaceuticals, with frequent bouts of acute depression (major depressive episodes) and anxiety, I broached the subject of medical marijuana with my physician. She wanted nothing to do with prescribing medical cannabis for me, nor did she direct me in any way. I tried to discuss it with her again as an alternative treatment to help combat my persistent and fluctuating symptoms, until I was eventually told that my clinic doesn’t affiliate with any cannabis clinics.

If I wanted weed for medical purposes, I was on my own.

Thus began my journey, the best bits of which I will share with you in the hopes that you can pursue and advocate for your own care using cannabis rather than wasting time with your reluctant physician.

It takes approximately 10 days to complete the medical cannabis registration process.

In order to get cannabis for medical reasons you’ll need a prescription. To get a prescription, you’ll need a medical professional to write the prescription – it does NOT have to be your current physician nor do they have to refer you. You can register directly with a licensed medical cannabis producer (LP) or with any one of the many online (I use the Lyte Clinic) and brick-and-mortar clinics that can service your needs. You may need some sort of documentation to substantiate your request for medical cannabis.

For instance, I first registered directly with a licensed medical cannabis producer who required a medical document substantiating my request for medical marijuana to help with depression and anxiety. I used a list of the medications I had been taking over the last 6 months, as provided by my pharmacist. The Lyte Clinic didn’t require any medical documentation.

With both of these registration scenarios, they will handle connecting you with a medical practitioner who will assess your needs – either by phone, video, or in-person (if available) depending on what you prefer – make a recommendation and write the prescription. Then, they register your prescription with Health Canada. When completed, they inform you and you’re basically ready to start shopping. It takes approximately 10 days from the time you register for medical cannabis to being ready to shop for products.

Where cannabis clinics provide added value.

After getting my prescription directly from the LP, I started to shop for product on their site. I quickly realized that they didn’t have everything I wanted. The current state of LPs is such that they don’t all produce everything. How could they? For example, Canna Farms has a broad variety of dried weed (flower) while Spectrum Therapeutics has a good selection of gelcaps. What I didn’t realize was that I could “split” my prescription between LPs. That is to say, I have one prescription from Health Canada’s perspective, but it is “split” so I can shop from multiple producers within my prescription limit .

This is where the clinic came into play. Though I was registered with one LP, I decided to also register with a clinic. While I don’t know if all clinics do this, the Lyte Clinic provided me with the (recommended) option of working with a cannabis educator (through either video or audio chat) – which was invaluable to me. I requested a 50+ year-old (menopausal) female who had experience with mental illness. Not only could the woman they assigned me completely relate to my issues, but she was able to advise me on what LPs I could use to achieve my objectives. By the end of our conversation, I split my prescription between 4 LPs and Lyte handled all the details – including informing Health Canada. I waited for notification that the “paperwork” was done and I was ready to shop.

Cannabis prescription basics.

  • Your first prescription will likely be valid for only 3-4 month.
  • Your clinic and/or LP will notify you when your prescription renewal is due.
    • You may/may not have to provide medical substantiation again.
  • Your renewal(s) will likely be valid for a longer periods of time, e.g. 6 months then 12 months.

I truly hope this information has been beneficial to you. I’ve included some links below that you might also find useful.

Lyte Clinic
Strainprint
Leafly
Lift&Co